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The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. United Methodist Women is an active participant in this annual global gathering, especially through its Church Center for the United Nations. 

Promoting Accountability for Women and Migrant Human Rights and Social Protections

United Methodist Women co-sponsor “Flipping the Post-2015 Development Discourse: Promoting Accountability for Women and Migrant Human Rights and Social Protections” as part of the 58th session of the U.N. Commission of the Status of Women.


New York—United Methodist Women, with co-sponsors Women and Global Migration Working Group, Global Fund for Women, International Trade Union Confederation, Migrant Forum in Asia, Migrant Rights International, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Siglo XXIII, World YWCA and YWCA-Canada, hosted the side event “Flipping the Post-2015 Development Discourse: Promoting Accountability for Women and Migrant Human Rights and Social Protections” Thursday, March 13 during the 58th session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
The focus of the interactive session was on new sustainable development goals. Too little attention is paid to the powerful actors that intentionally and systematically underdevelop communities, regions and nations in both North and South. Social protections, including health care, education and income security are human rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights yet are denied to millions as resources are redirected toward elites. They should be at the core of the development agenda. Lack of these rights is a major reason that women migrate, and yet, when they arrive in new countries, women often are unable to access these services. This interactive session aimed to identify the policies and actors that block the delivery of economic and social human rights and examine strategies to hold state and nonstate actors accountable.
Speakers included Marieke Koning, International Trade Union Confederation, Brussels; Sr. Lissy Joseph, Migrant Forum Asia; and Monami Maulik, executive director, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), New York City.
Catherine Tactaquin
Catherine Tactaquin with National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Migrant Rights International introduced the session, saying, “Lack of access to social protections, persistent poverty, lack of access to education, health care, income security—all of these are factors in why peoples are displaced from their homeland and why they must move. These are issues we think are central to how we look at the question of development.” The session aimed to discuss these barriers and determine methods to overcome them.
“Social security is a human right,” Marieke Koning said. “Social protection means having an income—having a paid maternity leave, for example. It also means access to affordable health care. It is also access to pension. Social protection is very important to the quality of our lives, especially women.”
Koning discussed the international standards for labor rights frameworks, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Millennium Development Goals, and Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Governments have policies and measures in place to provide social protections for women. “Something very complete we can do is hold our own governments accountable,” she said.
Marieke Konig

“The lack of access to social protections can be a unifying opportunity for those of us in migrant-sending countries and those of us in migrant-receiving countries,” Tactaquin said. “This is where we have shared needs, shared values and potentially shared strategies on the work we can do make social protections not minimally accessible but maximally accessible.”
Sr. Lissy Joseph works with domestic workers in India and knows firsthand the struggles they face in both deciding to migrate and the poor working conditions following migration. “Mechanization and newer forms of development have alienated tribal people even from cultivation and land rights,” Joseph said. “People have to sell even the little land holdings that they had. Women are forced to provide for their families as a result, leaving their homes to work in the servant sector in the Middle East.” There, Joseph said, they lack access to information and services and become victims of trafficking. “They are being denied their human rights,” she said, “behind closed doors.

Lissy Joseph

Joseph called on countries to ratify the conventions and recommendations laid out by the International Labour Organization, echoing Koning. “It is important for us to work together to protect the rights of migrant workers.”
Monami Maulik with DRUM New York City was the third and final speaker before attendees broke into groups to discuss ways to overcome the common barriers of access to social protection for migrant women around the world. Working with migrants from South Asia, Maulik explained that low-income south Asians—mostly undocumented workers—come to New York City for many of the reasons Joseph described when speaking of women in India.
“In South Asia, particularly in the 1990s, you had a rapid scale of neoliberal globalization,” Maulik said. “The opening up of markets, the privatization of social services, austerity programs, increasing impacts of International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies that required cutting of health care, education, housing and other benefits forced people, women particularly, to choose to migrate. But it was less a choice and more a force for survival.”

Monami Maulik

Many cab drivers, domestic workers, retail workers, day laborers and service workers in New York City are South Asian. There are about one million South Asians in New York City, Maulik said, a large part of which is undocumented. They are the second highest undocumented population in the city.
In a recent study by DRUM [PDF] of South Asian workers in five industries in New York City—largely undocumented women workers according to Maulik—the organization found the following conditions:
  • Over half of all survey respondents made less than minimum wage.
  • 83 percent of retail workers made less than minimum wage.
  • Many worked 12 hours a day, earning only $45 a day, less than minimum wage.
  • Two-thirds of domestic workers were not allowed to take breaks.
  • 95 percent had no health insurance.
  • 75 percent had no sick days.
  • 82 percent had no time off.
  • 1 in 5 reported workplace harassment.
“More and more it’s women who are migrating, especially in the past five to 10 years,” Maulik said. “We organize at DRUM around issues of immigrant access, immigrant rights, rights to education, health care, safe social services as well as legalization and immigration reform, and racial justice and civil rights issues.”


Workshop participants broke into groups and discussed barrier to social protection that the global community must work to overcome. Some of the issues reported were:
  • Language barriers.
  • Lack of access to information.
  • Lack of organization of migrant communities.
  • An export-oriented development model.
  • Privatization.
  • Austeriy measures.
  • Cuts to social programs.
  • Restricted immigration policies.
  • No access to health care .
  • Racism.
  • Governance—who is making the decisions?
  • Poor working conditions.
  • Deportations.
  • Lack of jobs and education in indigenous communities.
  • Privatized food sources.
  • Transnational corporations and trade organizations .
  • World Health Organization, IMF, and World Bank establishing unsustainable policies.
  • Poor or nonexistent public education .
  • Credit history, denial of housing for migrants.
  • Population growth.
  • The G8 and G20 countries ignoring U.N. treaties.

Bhumika Muchala and Carol Baron

Catherine Tactaquin, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Migrant Rights International; Carol Barton, United Methodist Women; and Bhumika Muchhala, Third World Network, facilitated this workshop.
| 4/2/2014 10:01:13 AM | 0 comments
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